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Why You Should Learn Harmonica - by Howard Levy

howard levy

I've spoken with many people who want to learn to play an instrument.  Naturally, my advice is to learn how to play harmonica, the friendliest of all instruments. You can put this little baby in your pocket, take it out whenever the urge hits you and bang- instant music. Even if you barely know how to play, the humble harmonica is very obliging- put your mouth anywhere and blow, and a major chord comes out. Do the same thing on the inhale, and a seventh chord, a ninth chord, or a minor chord will come out. It’s the only wind instrument that can play chords- not to mention rhythms, and of course, single notes. Or combinations of chords, rhythms and single notes, and even counterpoint! There is so much music hiding inside this little instrument! As you learn harmonica, it will delight you, impress your friends, fill you with a sense of wonder, even joy, at the hidden treasures that you gradually unlock as you play more and more. 

It’s also the only instrument that is TOTALLY INVISIBLE to the player as he plays, and doesn’t use the hands or fingers to get any notes, but only to shape the tone.  Learning to play the harmonica is part no- brainer (pick it up and breathe in and out and get chords), part determination (figuring out how to get one note at a time), part like learning to ride a bike (figuring out that peculiar inside-the-mouth balancing act you need to bend notes). 

At every step of the way there are things that are frustrating, but when you “get it”, wow, what a feeling! Playing Blues harmonica is one of the coolest feelings you can have in the world of music. It’s one of the most amazing accidents that an instrument invented in Germany in the 1820’s to play folk music also is the world’s greatest Blues instrument.  Bending notes on the harp feels great to the player, and people go nuts for the sound. It’s primal, emotional, honest, unique- no other instrument can do that thing. 

At the Howard Levy Harmonica School, I try to show harmonica players how to play the harmonica in every possible way, with a thorough grounding in proper ways to breathe, hold the instrument, learning basic theory, how to play simple tunes- to bending notes, playing the Blues in its many forms - and then branching off into as many different styles of music as the students could ever want to play, with the learning of more advanced techniques that I pioneered and developed over the past 40 years. 

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Watch Howard's Free Harmonica Lessons

Believe it or not, you can play Jazz, Indian Music, Classical Music, Bluegrass, Irish Music, Swing, Klezmer, Middle Eastern Music, and more, all on a standard 10 hole diatonic harmonica.  And I teach how to do all of this and everything else you need to learn harmonica online at the Howard Levy Harmonica School. 

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